The next stop in the Time Lord Victorious story arc is a pair of “Short Trips”, basically 40 minute pieces of prose read in audiobook style by one actor/actress, and in this case these two trips feature Masters who have never really appeared in Big Finish audio stories (for obvious reasons, though less so now there are so many recasts!) So what are they like, and how do they fit into the Time Lord Victorious story arc? Let’s find out! … as much as we can at this point.
Synopsis (of Master Thief):
The Master wants to plunder one of the most secure vaults in the universe, the Repository. He’s got a plan, and a deadly new weapon to assist him. However, as the Master quickly discovers, getting in might be easy, but getting away with it might cost him everything.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
“Master Thief” features the original (in terms of appearances) Master as played by Roger Delgado, showing him breaking into a massive vault and using a new type of gun that de-evolves whoever is blasted by it. The issue he faces is that the inhabitants of this planet were once telepathic, though it was something they eventually lost over the generations, but thanks to him turning a bunch of people into purple primordial slime he starts being overcome by a feeling of empathy and suffering from memory loss. The goo is instinctively fighting back, and by the time The Master reaches his TARDIS he can barely remember who he is.
He quickly records a message to himself explaining what happened so his future, recovered self can know, and then passes out. It’s an interesting story, it starts making you think maybe Delgado’s Master has a softer side, but it just turns out it was karma, his victims were getting their own back by attacking his very being. As for how it ties into Time Lord Victorious I have no idea, could be the map he stole, could be the planet he’s on and their inhabitants (given they were telepathic a long time ago being a key plot point), could even be the planet he stole the de-evolving gun from. I guess we’ll find out eventually!
Two Masters you never see on Big Finish covers for the price of one!
“Lesser Evils” on the other hand is far more obvious in its connection to the Time Lord Victorious as the Anthony Ainley incarnation of The Master is, somehow, in the Dark Times and meets a member of the Kotturuh as they assign the lifespan of all the different creatures it comes across. The 40 minutes is literally just The Master talking to the Kotturuh, mostly about an ape-like species that has low-level psychic powers who clutch rocks in their hands until they change colour and become more precious. The species often give the rocks to strangers out of kindness, and in fact The Master has several… though as we soon find out, the rocks also change colour depending on the purity of the holder’s souls, or at the very least, the purity of their intentions.
The Kotturuh is about to give these creatures a shorter lifespan, something that would mean they have far less time to hang around and create these stones, so The Master, who wishes to use the stone’s power, tries his best to manipulate the Kotturuh into sparing them. Not only does the Kotturuh not fall for it (and nearly choke The Master to death) but the creatures, upon seeing The Master’s ambition and the power the stones can give, actually tells the Kotturuh to give them a limited lifespan so they can rob the universe of such powerful objects. Again, it’s an interesting little story, and this time feels a little bit more connected due to the Kotturuh, though it won’t have any actual impact on the story arc at hand.
I’ve seen it speculated that the ape-like creatures with psychic powers might be the ancestors with psychic powers mentioned by the people from the first story, and that’s how it connects to the overall arc. I have a feeling that if that was the case it would be mentioned somewhere in “Lesser Evils” to tip us off, so I’m still of the opinion that how “Master Thief” connects to the arc is still up in the air…
While not too bad, Jon Culshaw is your reader for both stories and while his Ainley is good (though relies FAR too heavily on doing the Ainley chuckle to get his impression across) his Delgado leaved a lot to be desired. He was all cold and harsh and completely lacking in his suave charm, even in scenes where he’s supposed to be charming a receptionist. It shows that even though he’s a professional impressionist (and his Brigadier still stands as one of the most eerily accurate impressions going) he can’t literally do them all. I’d be happy to hear his Ainley in a Fifth, Sixth or Seventh Doctor audio drama though, so long as he pulls back on the chuckles…
Obviously the Kotturuh were first introduced in the just-reviewed “The Knight, The Fool and The Dead”, which kicked off the Time Lord Victorious arc. The two short stories don’t really connect to anything else.
Given the low price and the reasonably short length, it’s hard to be very critical, especially as both stories were well written and read (beyond a shaky Delgado voice). A good time, but obviously not a lot to sink your teeth into.